In the scriptures there are two types of sin. One type brings guilt; the other does not. Therefore, one brings judgment; the other does not. Distinction is made between these two types of sin all through the Bible. Let’s look at some references.
First in Numbers 15:27-28:
And if any person sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. So the priest shall make an atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the Lord, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.
We see here a sin committed through ignorance–without knowledge of wrongness. But in contrast to this sin of ignorance we read of another type of sin in the following verses (30-31):
But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is nativeborn or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord; that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and has broken his commandment, that soul shall be completely cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.
Here we have a sin committed presumptuously–arrogantly, in defiance. This is not a sin done in ignorance – unintentionally – but willfully, despising the word of the Lord.
David also spoke of these two types of sin in:
Psalm 19, verses 12-13:
Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.
The “secret faults” he spoke of were sins of ignorance–things he may have done wrong but didn’t realize the error of them. He also spoke of presumptuous sins–those willful sins of defiance against the word of God.
We have seen two types of sin: those of ignorance (unintentional) and those done presumptuously (willfully). As in the Old Testament, the New Testament has much to say about these two types of sin.
First in I John 1:5b-7:
God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we are walking in the light and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, the sin we are being cleansed from must be sins done in ignorance. For we are walking in the light; walking in all the knowledge we have. Therefore, as we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus automatically cleanses our sins of ignorance.
But what about presumptuous (willful) sins against the word of God? Let’s read Hebrews 10:26-27:
For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Here we have the willful, presumptuous sin committed in defiance of the truth, the word of God. For this type of sin the blood of Jesus is not working. Because of this rebellion there remains no more sacrifice for sins in the willful sinner’s life. At this point the willful sinner must reestablish his relationship with God by true repentance and faith, or face the fate of all rebels–judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.
In the next verse (verse 28):
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.
We see here a linking to the presumptuous sin in Numbers 15:30-31 and the judgment that was upon it.
Then in verse 29:
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be though worthy, who has trampled the Son of God under foot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
Here we see the arrogant, defiant attitude of this willful sinner. He is trampling under foot the Son of God, and considering that precious blood which sanctified, purified and cleansed him as unholy, and insulting the Spirit of grace. Of what punishment do you suppose he shall be worthy?
Let’s look at one more reference to the two types of sins in I John 5:16:
If any man see his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.
We see here a sin that doesn’t bring death and a sin that does bring death. The death spoken of here is spiritual death–separation from God, as in Romans 6:16, 6:23, 7:9, and 8:6. The sin that doesn’t bring spiritual death is a sin of ignorance as in 1 John 1:7. The sin that does bring spiritual death is a sin committed willfully as in Hebrews 10:26.
We are told to pray for those brothers we see sin ignorantly, but for those who with knowledge arrogantly and willfully defy the Word of God we are not even encouraged to pray.
“All unrighteousness is sin:
and there is a sin not leading to death” (I John 5:17).